President Barack Obama is back in campaign mode—after four years of frustrating negotiations with an often-truculent Congress, the president is taking another tack, championing his cause directly to the American people.

In an appearance at a Hatsfield, Pa. toy factory on Nov. 30, the president’s signature campaign song, U2’s “City of Blinding Lights” echoed through the building. The president doffed his jacket, rolled up his sleeves and took the microphone in a campaign-like appeal, according to media descriptions.

This time, President Obama wasn’t asking for reelection. Instead, he was touting his plan to raise taxes on the rich, essentially allowing the Bush-era tax cuts to expire for those who make above $250,000 annually and extended middle-class tax cuts and to avert the looming “fiscal cliff.”

If Congress and the White House do not reach an agreement by Dec. 31, Bush-era tax cuts would expire for all Americans, creating $2,200 more in taxes for the average middle-class family, Obama said.

“That’s sort of like the lump of coal you get for Christmas. That’s a Scrooge Christmas,” Obama told the Pennsylvania crowd.

To avert that crisis, lawmakers and White House will “have to get out of our comfort zones to make that happen,” he said. “But in Washington, nothing is easy, so there is going to be some prolonged negotiations.”

While Republicans have signaled a willingness to entertain some form of increased tax revenue, they are still resistant to raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans. And they have scoffed at other elements of the president’s plan, which calls for $1.6 trillion in tax hikes over 10 years and about $400 billion in unspecified spending cuts.

“During the campaign, the president pledged to the American people that he would seek a balanced approach to addressing the debt—a combination of new revenues and spending cuts,” House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said in response to the White House plan Nov. 30. “So the day after the election, I said the Republican majority would accept new revenue as part of a balanced approach that includes real spending cuts and reforms. Now the White House took three weeks to respond with any kind of a proposal, and much to my disappointment, it wasn’t a serious one.”

But the president is urging average Americans to help him push congressional leaders past a stalemate, calling it part of the work he warned during his re-election campaign that they would have to do in the next four years.

“The role of citizens in our democracy does not end with your vote,” he said in his Nov. 7 election night speech.

The White House is urging citizens to share their stories about how a tax hike would affect them by visiting, or by keeping the conversation going online on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #My2K and otherwise putting pressure on their Washington representatives to at least agree on avoiding tax increases on the middle class.

“If there’s one thing I’ve learned, when the American people speak loudly enough, lo and behold, Congress listens,” Obama said Nov. 28 from the South Court Auditorium of the White House, as he stood surrounded by Americans who had written to the White House in support of his plan.

“I can only do it with the help of the American people,” he said. “Do what it takes to communicate a sense of urgency. We don’t have a lot of time here. We’ve got a few weeks to get this thing done.”

Zenitha Prince

Special to the AFRO